London - Women who eat peanuts while their children are breastfeeding could cut their babies’ chances of becoming allergic.
Infants’ immune systems can be "primed" to handle peanuts by being breastfed traces of them, a study has found.
It follows years of warnings not to give babies peanuts as experts increasingly agree parents should "not delay" in feeding them to children.
Canadian researchers followed 545 mothers and their children, of whom nearly one in ten were sensitive to peanuts by the age of seven. But only 1.7 percent of children became allergic if their mother consumed peanuts while breastfeeding and then introduced them to the food before the age of one.
Authors from the universities of Manitoba and British Columbia, whose study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said: "These results add to evidence that peanut consumption during infancy can reduce the risk of peanut sensitisation later.
"[The findings] suggest this risk could be further reduced in breastfed infants by encouraging maternal consumption of peanuts during lactation."
In the study, 58 percent of mothers breastfed after consuming peanuts, with more than a quarter giving their children peanuts before the age of one.
Breastfeeding alone did not appear to protect children from peanut allergies, which were diagnosed using a skin prick test when they were seven years old. Neither did simply providing children with peanuts before the age of one.
However both together dramatically cut allergy rates to 1.7 percent. This compared to an average of 9.4 percent which developed a peanut allergy across all the children involved in the study.